20 best English sparkling wines

Wine news

Wed 31 Mar 2021

Sparkling wine has been a well-documented success story in England, with English fizzes frequently trumping Champagnes in blind tastings. Despite the plucky underdog tag, should the quality of such wines be such a surprise? After all, they come from similar climates, the same grape varieties, and, especially on England’s south coast, near-identical chalky soils.

Some even believe that the English were first to make sparkling wine – scientist Christopher Merret’s 1662 Royal Society paper explained how to do just that, pre-dating a certain Dom Pérignon by about 30 years. But sparkling wine only became a serious business in England in the late 20th century, when the likes of Nyetimber arrived on the scene.

Since then, the number of wineries in the UK has shot up to more than 150, and with climate change making the country a more attractive proposition, the Champenois have been quick to see the potential, with Taittinger purchasing vineyards in Kent, with the aim of producing its first English sparkling wine in 2023.

Rosé fizz is also on the rise, too, and three of the IWSC award-winners in the category are pink, including Silver winner Ridgeview’s Fitzrovia Rosé Brut NV – the winery also scooped a Gold for its Blanc de Blancs Brut 2015.

English fizz will likely never be a serious commercial rival to the Champagnes and Cavas of this world because of the tiny levels of production (15 million bottles versus 250-300 million), but the quality is undoubtedly there. The following are 20 of the best English sparkling wines, as judged in the IWSC 2020.

Blanc de Noirs Brut 2013iwsc-top-english-sparkling-1.png

Lovely nose - full, generous as well as mineral and smoky. Autolytic character shining through. The palate is focussed, fresh and taught, with lovely texture and focus. There is complexity through to the finish, which is long. 12%

Blanc de Blancs Brut 2015iwsc-top-english-sparkling-2.png

Lovely, creamy brioche nose with bags of autolytic character, balanced out with freshness. Rich, charming palate of apricots and citrus notes, all rounded off with an elegant, long finish. 12% RRP £31 from Langham

Classic Brut 2016iwsc-top-english-sparkling-3.png
Black Chalk

Fresh white fruit on the nose, with the palate showing beautiful mid-palate fruit. Expressive, savoury and citrusy, with a crisp and refreshing finish. Very well balanced and consistent from start to finish. Lovely. 12%

Cuvée David Pearson Chardonnay Pinot Brut 2015iwsc-top-english-sparkling-4.png
Breaky Bottom

A focused, expressive nose of fresh citrus, ripe yellow apples and juicy tropical fruits underpinned by elegant chalky minerality and delicate brioche. Classy, with fine bubbles, the lively palate bursts with lemon and lime persistence, balanced by train track acidity. 11.2% RRP £31 from Breaky Bottom

Blanc de Blancs Brut 2015iwsc-top-english-sparkling-5.png

Structure, structure, structure! This wine shows how it should be done. Fresh aromas to begin with, which develop into something a lot more interesting. Complex fruit and savoury flavours dance around your palate, with perfect acidity to structure the wine. 12% RRP £59 from Gusbourne

Blanc de Blancs Brut 2015iwsc-top-english-sparkling-6.png

Passion fruit, yellow pear and apple on the nose. The palate is fresh, zippy and focussed, with Chardonnay character. Some fleshy Granny Smith apple and some slightly toasty notes. Impressive length. A lovely wine. 12% RRP £60 from Ridgeview

Pinot Noir Brut Rosé 2018iwsc-top-english-sparkling-7.png
Camel Valley

Vivid strokes of fresh red cherry and juicy red berries with heady aromas of rose and lily all stippled with fresh acidity. Smooth and piquant at once. Charming style with good varietal character. 12.5% RRP £29 from Camel Valley

Ambriel Classic Cuvée Brut NViwsc-top-english-sparkling-8.png
Redfold Vineyards

Big open-armed welcome with bold ripe peach and apple delicately laced with elderflower. Good brioche balanced by strong line of citrus acidity through to marvellous finish. 11% RRP £29 from Ambriel

Brut NViwsc-top-english-sparkling-9.png

Cascading layers of elderflower with juicy, ripe stone fruit and mandarin shining through on fresh, balanced palate edged with buttery tones. Well structured and showing good typicity. 12% RRP £21.99 from gustowines

Cuvée Royale Brut 2015iwsc-top-english-sparkling-10.png
Greyfriars Vineyard

An elegant nose of biscuity brioche, citrus and sweet spice. Focused, with yellow plum, lemon and lime acidity supported by toast. Fine delicate mousse with a juicy finish. 12% RRP £32 from Greyfriars

Late Disgorged Reserve Brut 2010iwsc-top-english-sparkling-11.png

An elegantly expressive nose of ripe Mirabelle, yellow apple and brioche with highlights of vanilla custard. Vibrantly complex with fresh acidity, honey and sweet spice and a fine mousse. Age worthy. 12%

Fitzrovia Rosé Brut NViwsc-top-english-sparkling-12.png

An elegant example with fine, delicate bubbles. Full of pure red fruit, cream and hazelnut character. Balanced and well-rounded. 12% RRP £33 from Fitzrovia

Essence Brut 2015iwsc-top-english-sparkling-13.png
Fox & Fox

Very savoury nose with hints of salinity and stony qualities. The palate is taut and focused, with the acidity integrating well into the wine. The fruit opens up on the end, and leaves you with character, structure and vibrancy. 12% RRP £39 from Fox & Fox

Brut Reserve NViwsc-top-english-sparkling-14.png
Harrow & Hope

Lavish palate of ripe honeyed fruit tightened with sinuous pricklings of tart lemon curd. Firm, fine backbone of acidity complements light nutty and floral notes in pleasing, elegant style. 12% RRP £28 from Harrow & Hope

Culver Classic Cuvée Extra Brut NViwsc-top-english-sparkling-15.png

A sophisticated and complex example with flavours of toast, biscuit and macadamia nut brightened with fresh lemon and sour apple notes. Classic with a rich mousse. 12% RRP £26 from Langham

England Brut NViwsc-top-english-sparkling-16.png
Louis Pommery

Bright mineral nose and controlled explosion of lemon, apple and custard on palate. Wafts of lovely brioche in tight, balanced expressive bubbly with refined finish. 12% RRP £39.99 from Majestic

Rosé Brut NViwsc-top-english-sparkling-17.png
Marlings Vineyard

Vibrant with a broad palate of focused ripe red berries and apple. Poised with sweet fruit flavour and refreshing acidity. 11.5% RRP £25 from Marlings

Blanc de Blancs Brut 2015iwsc-top-english-sparkling-18.png
Court Garden

The palate has a richness, notes of straw and lime juice. Nice texture. The finish has a lovely note of struck match which comes through, some toastiness and some quince notes. 12% RRP £29 from Court Garden

Blanc de Blancs Brut 2015iwsc-top-english-sparkling-19.png
Jenkyn Place

Developed nose, with hints of lime and chalk. Slightly reductive in style, the palate has silky texture, with the yeast flavours carrying through. Long finish. 12% RRP £38 enquire at Elizabeth Rose Wines

Corallian Classic Cuvée Extra Brut NViwsc-top-english-sparkling-20.png

A generous example with a broad, focused palate. Fresh notes of apple and lemon curd are intertwined with hints of toasted hazelnut and brioche. 12% RRP £27 from Wanderlust Wine

Note: This article was first published on 20 December 2020 and then updated on 31 March 2021